Lost in translation: the challenges of global communication in medical education publishing

Cantillon, Peter, McLeod, Peter, Razack, Saleem, Snell, Linda and Steinert, Yvonne (2009) Lost in translation: the challenges of global communication in medical education publishing. pp. 615-620. ISSN 1365-2923


Context An academic journal serves its purpose by being read and understood. International medical education journals that want to reach a wider readership must be accessible to a multitude of cultures and contexts. It is therefore important that authors and editors consider how their use of language will be interpreted by health care education colleagues who work in different settings. Given the increasing importance of communicating research findings in health care education, it is surprising that no surveys of the comprehensibility of medical education publications have been published in the medical education literature. Methods We (a group of education researchers from Europe and North America) set out to examine the comprehensibility of a defined set of recently published medical education papers. We surveyed all the articles published in four major international journals on medical education during the first 5 months of 2008 and searched for terminology that might prove obscure or confusing to an international readership. Results We found that many of the articles surveyed included terminology, contextual descriptions, acronyms and titles that assumed a shared understanding of setting between authors and readers. We include illustrative examples in the text. Discussion Terminological and contextual challenges for international readers are common features of the research publications surveyed. In order that the findings of education research may be more widely disseminated and understood, it is important that authors, referees and editors pay attention to the comprehensibility of the language they use in articles selected for publication.

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